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Hinsdale

Large crowd sounds off before D-86 OK's flat levy

Joe Ardovitch of Darien addresses the board during the Hinsdale High School District 86 monthly meeting Monday, Dec. 16 in the Hinsdale South auditorium. With approval of a zero percent property tax increase on the agenda, a larger than usual crowd turned out for the meeting.
Joe Ardovitch of Darien addresses the board during the Hinsdale High School District 86 monthly meeting Monday, Dec. 16 in the Hinsdale South auditorium. With approval of a zero percent property tax increase on the agenda, a larger than usual crowd turned out for the meeting.
PHOTOS: Big crowd turns out for D-86 board meeting

HINSDALE – The packed auditorium at Hinsdale South High School on Monday night was more like a congressional hearing than a school board meeting as each opposing comment from board members and residents alike garnished applause and cheers from half the room.

At the center of debate was the proposal to finalize a flat levy for Fiscal Year 2015, meaning the district will collect about $72.6 million with a zero-percent increase from the 2012 collected property taxes.

Mirroring the tentative vote in November, the board again voted, 4-3, on Monday in favor of the flat levy as School Board President Claudia Manley, Victor Casini, Richard Skoda and Corcoran voted in favor of the flat levy. Board members Michael Kuhn, Kay Gallo and Planson voted against it.

"At this point someone has to say we have to take a deep breathe, and just stop for at least one year and live within our means," Manley said.

Before finalizing the flat levy Monday night, about 30 residents submitted requests to make comments both in support of and against the proposed levy.

"The flat levy would make District 86 an extreme outlier," said Hinsdale resident Linda Burke. "In fact, no one else is doing it among area high schools and K-12 districts."

Several residents joined Burke in her disdain for the tax freeze and in favor of a 1.7 percent increase, which prompted Ed Mack of Darien to support the majority on the school board who wanted the flat levy.

"I'm hearing that the failure to vote for a 1.7 percent means Armageddon for this high school and I don't really believe that's the case," Mack said. "I'm pretty sure that even after the zero percent we're still going to graduate excellent students who are going to go to excellent colleges."

Darien resident Roger Kempa, who was passing out signs before the meeting reading "No New Taxes," and "Stop…Tax and Spend," praised the new board for its decision on the zero levy and said he was glad "to see democracy at work."

"This democracy was not possible under the previous board," Kempa said. "This board has done something quite different and I appreciate their openness and transparency."

After audience comments, the board minority in votes made a final push to compromise and oppose a zero percent levy. School board member Jennifer Planson said at 1.7 percent for the levy that's $1.9 million that the district won't be asking for this year and said she believes the assumptions for a flat levy are too aggressive.

"Even if we can weather that for a year that's fine, however that compounds year after year so it's not just that you lose $1.9 million this year, it compounds year after year that you will lose," Planson said. "So in essence in six years, that $1.9 million will be $10 million. That's Hinsdale South's library."

Ed Corcoran, school board vice president, said it's that compounding of year by year tax increases that he hopes the board puts a stop to.

"What we really want to do here is we really just want to be responsible," Corcoran said. "For next year, we have no mandate for us to increase the taxes, we can maintain the programs, we can do everything we want to do, we can continue our capital spending and we're going to do as much as we can in the classroom."

Today, the owner of a $300,000 house pays about $1,500 in taxes to the school district and would see a slight decrease or flat property tax bill in 2014, according to a news release from the district.

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